May 13, 2009

iPhone App of the Week: Assassin's Creed Altair's Chronicles

Ahh, Assassin's Creed... I've never played it.

But since the DS version of the franchise has been ported (and improved upon) for the iPhone and iPod touch, I get a taste of the platforming side of the stealth-oriented game.
If only the graphics were this good on the iPhone.

The game starts with a pretty nice video depicting Altair as a badass assassin (try saying that 10 times) who is not only stealthy but knows how to fight.
You could somewhat do this in-game?

Obviously, since this is a video, it presents Altair in his PS3/360 form. The real graphics aren't actually too shabby, but we'll touch upon that later.

So anyway, after that video, we get to the main menu.
You can start the game in the checkpoint you made by pressing "Play", learn combat moves in "Combat tutorial" and replay other levels you've finished in "Memories". Rather straightforward, this menu.
From here on, you'll be seeing a lot of our old friend, the loading screen. It's not exactly unfair to expect these to be brief (or maybe even non-existent) as the game is already stored on the hard drive of the iPhone/iPod touch, but they simply aren't for some reason. You'll be seeing this one every time you go from segment to segment, level to level, etc.... It's quite sickening.

If the chapter has just started, you'll be greeted with this little video/image at the center and some subtitles. These subtitles are gonna be read by the newly added voiceovers, which is kind of a nice touch if the voice actor didn't sound so boring.
But there's actually a story that drives the game. It basically involves the Templars who have possession of some cup (okay, chalice) and it seems that Altair is tasked to get it so it can be destroyed. This then becomes a journey that spans various cities in Jerusalem.

Moving on, we get control of Altair, but it's not much of a game that lets you explore like the original Assassin's Creed, it's more of a linear platforming game in the vein of Prince of Persia- only a bit crappy because of the iPhone's lack of actual buttons.
So like the usual Gameloft games, they put an overlay of digital buttons on the screen. They're relatively responsive, but real buttons are better for precision.
Since the game has touch based buttons, platforming problems occur. Sometimes, jumping from platform to platform is harder than it should, balancing on a few pieces of metal is kind of unnecessarily hard because you'll be in danger of just clinging to it without any chance of getting back up because pressing up will make Altair cling on to the metal and move right while jumping will make Altair fall, and more.
In return, you'll be able to regularly see the screen shown above. Yes, that's you, and you're dead. This screen is actually BFF's with the loading screen, because when this screen disappears, you're stuck waiting for the game to transport you back to the last checkpoint.

Actually, if you still fail in the platforming and you haven't died, you'll still have to reload the checkpoint yourself or become discovered by Templars.

One thing the game does right though, is in the form of combat. For an iPhone game, the combat mechanics are surprisingly deep.
You can attack with a dagger, a huge sword or just put out your shield and counter-attack then. You can create combos and deal much damage.

It is ironic then, that stealth is not much of a part of the game. True, you have to hide from the guards, but you are directed to the place where you should do your platforming at. And the bad thing about enemies, is that it's not the Templars who are tough, it is the multitudes of snakes who roam around. They're too low for your sword! Hitting them is a matter of slashing wildly and praying they don't attack you.

Mini-games also add to the variety. There is a pickpocketing game, and there is an Elite Beat Agent-esque "interrogation" game. I'm not sure as to why points of acupuncture is essential to getting information, but whatever.
Overall, this iPhone game is pretty solid. Its shortcoming come not from the game itself, but from the iPhone. It tries to give you this sense of urgency...
...but it ultimately kinda fails.

Rating: 6.5/10

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